Macomb site search puts new focus on child killer
Macomb Township — Wednesday was Arthur Nelson Ream’s 69th birthday, but no one here was celebrating the convicted child killer or his life.
Plenty of people were saying Ream’s name.
Like Warren Mayor James Fouts, who likened Ream to a “monster” during a news conference Wednesday in a rural area near 23 Mile and North Avenue. The 24-acre site remains the focus of a multi-police agency dig for the bodies of four to six suspected victims, including 12-year-old Kimberly King of Warren, missing since 1979.
Warren police Commissioner William Dwyer more conservatively referred to Ream as remaining a “person of interest” in the unsolved disappearances of teenage girls, including King.
“Today is his birthday,” Dwyer said. “I hope it’s his last birthday, frankly.”
The dig site near the Clinton River is familiar to law enforcement officers and especially to Ream, who directed Eastpointe police there shortly after a jury found him guilty in August 2008 of the first-degree murder of 13-year-old Cindy Zarzycki, who disappeared from an Eastpointe Dairy Queen in April 1986.
After several discussions with investigators, drawing police a map of where her unmarked grave could be found and even being physically taken to the site to help direct the search, Cindy’s body was recovered.
It’s no secret that police have kept Ream in mind regarding other unsolved cases, even visiting him a few months ago in prison to discuss them with him and administering a polygraph exam, which he reportedly flunked.
At least two people who put Ream behind bars for life, and have since gone on to other careers, said Wednesday they wouldn’t be surprised if Ream had killed other victims and buried them at the site. And they quickly add, they wouldn’t be shocked either if investigators came up empty-handed.
“After the jury came back during the (Zarzycki) trial, Ream’s attorney tried to cut some kind of a sentencing deal,” said John Calabrese, a former Eastpointe police officer who is now the Emmet County administrator. “There were discussions about where the body might be. We let him sit for a while and didn’t show much interest in him and the next thing you know, he’s drawing up a map. He even went out there (with police) after directions didn’t turn anything up.”
Calabrese said even then, Ream seemed to enjoy mentally sparring with investigators, sometimes making “cryptic comments.” And he didn’t recall Ream showing much emotion before or after the body was recovered.
“I’m not certain he’s capable of remorse,” said Calabrese. “He fits the profile of a psychopath.”
Steven Kaplan, the former Macomb County assistant prosecutor who obtained a first-degree murder conviction in the Zarzycki case without a body or physical evidence of death, also believes Ream is capable of unsolved crimes.
“He likes to talk and he loves to be the center of attention — he wants people to pay attention to him,” said Kaplan, who is supervisor of West Bloomfield Township.
“He never said there were others but because of what we learned about him, we always thought there were other victims,” Kaplan said.
Cindy told friends how she planned to meet Ream a few blocks from her home at a Dairy Queen near Nine Mile in Eastpointe and he offered to drive her to a surprise party he planned for his 13-year-old son, Scott, whom she had met at the Macomb Mall.
Except there was no party planned. Instead Kaplan said Ream, a carpet installer, took the girl to a Warren storage area where he kept materials and also a bedroom set.
Kaplan believes it was there Ream sexually assaulted Cindy and killed her, later disposing of her body in Macomb Township, where no one would find it until he broke his silence more than two decades later.
“It was a good case involving strong circumstantial evidence,” Kaplan recalled. “We were able to show motive, opportunity, a lack of an alibi and past behavior involving young girls.”
Ream had been convicted of third-degree criminal sexual conduct in Gladwin County in August 1996 and of indecent liberties with a child in August 1975, but those cases were never mentioned to the jury.
The jury did hear of the purported birthday party plans (for a date that was not the son’s birthdate) and of Ream’s van being spotted at the Dairy Queen when Cindy disappeared.
Jurors also heard from Ream’s ex-wife, who denied his claims he was shopping with her at the time Cindy disappeared, and from another prison inmate who told how Ream said he had to testify in a case involving a girl he had killed, Ream’s court-appointed attorney, R. Timothy Kohler, said Wednesday.
The jury returned a guilty verdict in a little over two hours.
Kohler said he has no opinion on any ongoing investigation of his former client but still believes Ream should have been acquitted of the slaying and “that the evidence did not support a conviction.”
“I tried to be his advocate but all that matters is the jury’s decision,” Kohler said. “Regarding other matters or offenses he may or may not have committed, I know nothing about them. That wasn’t relevant to our case.”
After Ream was charged in the slaying, Kaplan noted that four other women notified the Prosecutor’s Office they also had been sexually abused by him.
“The others had kept quiet for years,” said Kaplan. “He or his family had some association with them (victims) or their families. He was like the uncle who is not really related to the family.
“My theory has always been that he molested or sexually assaulted girls between the ages of 13 and 16 years old that he met through family events, group organizations like Girl Scouts, or even church,” Kaplan said. “In this case, Cindy rejected and resisted him and he strangled her.”
Ream lived in several Macomb County communities. He had been married more than once and had one son who died in an auto crash. Kaplan said Ream’s ex-wife testified during the trial about his attraction to young girls and how after they split up, he lived in the carpet warehouse.
“It had been abandoned for a few years and one thing that sticks out to me is a milk carton we found there, which had one of those ‘Do You Know?’ ads displayed on its side seeking help in finding a missing child,” Kaplan said.
“This particular carton had a photo of Cindy Zarzycki on it. I often wondered if it wasn’t his idea of a trophy.”